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Feature: Bill Gates Wants to Reinvent Toilets

africaEngineering researchers who toil in the field of sanitation, especially sanitation for the world’s poorest citizens, used to find that their field carried about as much cachet as a fly-ridden latrine. Not anymore. In July, 2011, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced eight grants totaling $3 million for university engineering projects to “Reinvent the Toilet.”

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Lesson: Landfills and Contamination

What happens to garbage? In this lesson, students grades 9-12 derive the answer by building their own landfill. While observing how household waste can leach into soil and groundwater, they also learn the importance of well supervised, sanitary disposal sites.

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Website: Superfund Sites Where You Live

EPA LogoThis comprehensive website, run by the Environmental Protection Agency, provides lists of Superfund sites organized by state. A Superfund site is an uncontrolled or abandoned place where hazardous waste is located, possibly affecting local ecosystems or people. Important documents, contacts, timelines, and historical information are available for each location.

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Resource: Hazardous Waste Class Activities

EPA-Logo1HAZ-ED is a collection of class materials for grades 7-12 focusing on hazardous waste, dump sites, and efforts of remediation The materials — which include basic information, warm-up and full class activities, fact sheets, a glossary, suggested readings, a brochure about the Superfund program, and a bibliography — can be used as part of a larger curriculum or stand-alone.

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Feature: Learning from Blight

Polluting BuilidingFor residents of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, Blue Mountain is a scar on the landscape and a health hazard. But for 120 sixth graders at Eyer Middle School in Macungie, Pa., Blue Mountain became a laboratory for understanding the nation’s problems with toxic waste and ways to clean it up.

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Lesson: Trash Talkin’

RecycleIn this activity, students in grades 3-5 collect, categorize, weigh and analyze classroom solid waste. The class collects waste for a week, and then student groups spend a day sorting and analyzing the garbage with respect to recyclable and non-recyclable items. Students will discuss ways that engineers have helped to reduce solid waste.

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Website: Think Green Recycling

The Think Green website engages students in learning about the environment. Materials include teacher and student pages, with standards-based lesson plans, hands-on classroom activities, and at-home extensions, as well as video clips and printable posters.

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Lesson: The Energy of Decay

In this lesson, students in grades K-5 learn how decaying organic matter can be harvested as a source of energy. After brainstorming as to how old metal, plastic, and paper can be a resource, students find uses for an old piece of fruit. They view an informative video on harvesting organic material for energy. Once their their investigation is complete, students observe conditions that promote the most rapid decay of a piece of fruit.

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